Stealing Beauty (1996)

Stealing Beauty (1996)


An American young woman (Liv Tyler, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), who is sent by her relatives to spend a summer at an Italian villa with some of her late mother’s friends. Once she arrives there, she has an emotional transformation thanks to a series of unexpected events.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci is primarily known for two types of movies: sexually charged and controversial dramas (The Last Tango in Paris and Luna) and dazzling, exciting epics (The Last Emperor and 1900). Why, then, would he make an intimate, coming-of-age drama like Stealing Beauty?

I could only speculate about Bertolucci’s decision to make a small film like this one, but I have a feeling he intended to prove that, despite all the controversies surrounding most of his movies, he is essentially a good storyteller. If he in fact just set out to tell a good story with Stealing Beauty, he succeeded in this 180-degree turn in his career. This is a captivating little production charged with genuine passion and conviction by a director at the top of his game.

Bertolucci is able to create a movie that works on many levels, giving the film a multi-layered structure while bringing resonance to the expectations and disillusions of growing up in today’s society. He also extracts a completely natural performance from Liv Tyler in her first starring vehicle — it remains her best performance to date.

Bertolucci surrounded Tyler with a strong cast. I particularly enjoyed Jeremy Irons’s (Reversal of Fortune) smooth work as the debonair Alex. The film is also eye-candy. It was shot on location in Tuscany and the breathtaking Italian landscape enhances the romantic tone of the story.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Even though the movie could have been labeled as a mere “date movie,” Stealing Beauty is much more than that. As directed by Bertolucci, this is a provocative drama that tries to give answers to life’s many complicated questions. With Sinead Cusack (Mrs. Jeremy Irons, Eastern Promises), Rachel Weiz (The Constant Gardener), and Donal McCann (Out of Africa). Color, 118 minutes, Rated R.

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